Wedding tourism: A game-changer for the Indian hospitality industry

Sahdev Mehta, Senior Consultant, EHL Advisory Services, shares how wedding industry is changing the tourism landscape of the country. 

“10 million weddings”, yes that’s right, India is home to 1 crore weddings every year. The Indian wedding industry is the second-largest in the world, just behind the U.S. market. The total value of the Indian industry is an estimated $50 billion, compared to the $70 billion in the United States. 1 For many analysts, that means the global Indian wedding industry is steadfast, it’s recession-proof. In India, the average person will spend 20% of their total wealth at the time of the wedding on functions, needs, or wedding-related items. The wedding planning market in India is expected to hit USD 2.25 billion by the year 2020. Wedding planners charge up to 15% of the wedding budget as their consultation fee. The destination wedding market in India has witnessed a robust increase in trend and revenues in the recent years. The Wedding Tourism Report data by Majestic Research Services and Solutions Ltd India reports that the wedding market (actual event and related spend) in India is pegged at USD 15 billion of which approximately USD 4 billion is through destination weddings and the figures are projected to grow at a staggering rate. In the above context the industry has recently sprouted offshoots that are quickly proving to be significant, so much so that they have material impact on micro economies of cities and states.

The primary trend in Indian weddings is to modernize without disregarding the time-honoured traditions. Spending has shifted from jewellery which may never be worn again to trips that everyone can enjoy i.e. a destination wedding.

Destinations such as Udaipur, Goa, Kerala, Manali and the Andaman Islands are always high on demand. Thanks to hugely promising growth, nascent markets have also evolved. The Himalayan belt states primarily Uttaranchal, the seven sisters in the East, heritage cities such as Khajurao and Mysore are now on the map and in fact adding to the pie. These new markets and customisable experiences give rise to a new set of customers. We are now starting to see a fresh segment emerge whereby an integral component of the wedding is social responsibility. Couples today want to contribute towards endeavours, help and engage in causes adding a “Do good, Feel good” factor to the occasion, pertinent to the newer venues.

Millennials with an inherent experience-based buying pattern are the new decision makers. Coupled with the middle-class boom in expendable income, affordable airfare and lodging, weddings today are about personalisation, thus creating a brand new segment. At the same time, traditional markets i.e. Udaipur and Jaipur continue to rule the royal wedding genre, with sustainable growth predicted. Kerala is always popular due to its vast back water lagoons as a scenic backdrop; wellness here is the hook for weddings and that shows no signs of slowing down.

This massive industry presents opportunities for hospitality managers across the region. They need to be ready to meet bespoke needs and adapt fast to address new trends – from increased social consciousness to expectations of personalisation as standard. At EHL, we are always looking at current and future trends, to ensure our graduates are prepared for the hospitality industry of the future.

Here’s the curve ball: even with these astounding numbers, India still doesn’t feature in the top 20 destinations for inbound designer weddings, IMAGINE THAT! The simple maths of it, the potential scale is exponential. If hospitality leaders are ready to embrace this industry, and if the government can develop necessary infrastructure, i.e. connectivity through the ambitious yet needed Industrial corridor plan, along with increasing airways capabilities through privatisation, then the 4 billion dollars inbound wedding market should be on track to quadruple over the next 6-7 years. This TRANSFORMS the economies of India’s leisure hotel and shoulder markets and there are clear signs of the upswing already over the last couple of years.

Wedding tourism is the shot in the arm for India’s leisure markets, a robust silver lining that will propel tourism-based micro economies in the country. Indeed, India and weddings, are a “match made in heaven”.